News Consumption among Young Libyan Adults
Issue 12, Winter 2010
Watching Libyan TV news on a car dashboard - picture by Tark Siala
This study investigates the relationship between Libyan university students' consumption of Libyan and international Arab satellite TV news services and their perceptions of gratifications received from these news services. A self-completion questionnaire survey was administered to a sample of 400 university students that asked about the news consumption habits, reasons for watching specific TV news services, and personal details. The findings revealed that time spent with local TV news was negatively related to reported use of international TV channels. Students said that they got less news than they desired from local TV, especially the long-established Al-Jamahiriya TV channel. The data indicated that the new satellite broadcast international news service, Al Jazeera, played an important role in serving these young Libyans with the types of information they need. The findings are discussed in relation to the growing impact of international satellite broadcast news services and the need for local TV news services to find ways of making themselves distinctive in a way that provides an alternative but still relevant and valued news source.
Television has long been seen as one of the most important sources of news for media consumers around the world.i One reason for this is that televised news is trusted more than most other news sources.ii The importance of televised news, however, can vary with the type of news being considered. In the United Kingdom, for example, annual surveys of public opinion have consistently confirmed the prominence of television as a primary source of international news. At the same time, it has emerged rarely as the dominant source to which people say they turn for news about local and regional community matters.iii
The importance of news, whether obtained via television or from other media, has also been found to vary among different age groups. Even televised news fails to attract the interest of young people who often claim to follow the news only when something of particular relevance to them is happening.iv In fact, a majority of young adult viewers aged 16 to 24 years (64 percent) in the UK have been found to say that televised news has no relevance for them.v
Given wider concerns that television is losing its way as a major news servicevi, it is apparent that if this medium is to capture and cultivate young people as news consumers it must cater to their tastes and priorities and do this both in terms of the types of news being presented and also in the way that news is presented. One other factor underpinning this observation is that with the emergence of the Internet, which is highly popular among young people not only as an entertainment source but also as a news sourcevii, the conclusion that young people simply do not like news is ill-founded. Instead, the challenge for television is to find a way of making news more interesting and relevant.
This paper examines the link between university students’ consumption of news media and their perceptions of different news sources in Libya. In this country, the news landscape has undergone significant changes in the past few years. Most notably, these changes have been manifest in the shape of new international news services transmitted via satellite television. These services originate both from outside and within the Arab world. Perhaps the most prominent among them is the Qatar-based and Qatari-financed Al Jazeera, which has been instrumental in creating an authoritative news source that can compete on equal terms with major non-Arab international services such as those provided by the BBC and CNN.viii According to some writers, these new Arab news channels have cultivated a fresh sense of community across disparate local and national Arab news audiences.ix
In Libya, new international Arab TV news services have been introduced that have captured the attention and interest of young news consumers. One important question that arises from these developments is whether these new televised news services have pulled viewers away from the longer-established local TV news services. To investigate this question, the study reported here was constructed to examine the news consumption behaviors of young Libyans at university and the reasons that underpinned their attraction to specific news services.
TV News in Libya
i Barrie Gunter, "Trust in the News on Television," Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives 57, no. 5 (2005), 384-397.
iii Robert Towler, The Public's View 2002 (London: Independent Television Commission, 2003).; Ofcom., "New News, Future News: The Challenges for Television News After the Digital Switch-Over," http://bit.ly/aYxH9d (accessed 11/02, 2010).
vi Ian Hargreaves and James Thomas, New News, Old News an ITC and BSC Research Publication (Cardiff: Broadcasting Standards Commission, 2002).
vii Barrie Gunter, Ian Rowlands and David Nicholas, The Google Generation: Are ICT Innovations Changing Information-Seeking Behaviour? (London: Chandos, 2009).; Barrie Gunter, Television Versus the Internet: Will TV Prosper Or Perish as the World Moves Online? (London: Woodhead Publishing Limited, 2010).
viii Mohamed Zayani, The Al-Jazeera Phenomenon: Critical Perspectives on New Arab Media (London: Pluto Press, 2005).
ix Noha Mellor, Modern Arab Journalism: Problems and Prospects (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007).
x Jouma Elfotaysi, "The Development and Structure of Libyan Television Broadcasting 1968-1995" (PhD, University of Leeds, UK).
xi Mohammed Al-Asfar, "Direct Satellite Broadcasting its Impact on the Audiences for Local Television Channels in Tripoli Libya" (PhD, University of Manchester, UK).
xiii Charles Atkin, "Anticipated Communication and Mass Media Information-Seeking," The Public Opinion Quarterly 36, no. 2 (1972), 188-199.; Mark Levy, "The Audience Experience with Television News. Journalism Monographs no. 55," Association for Education in Journalism (1978), 1-29.; Jack McLeod, Dietram Scheufele and Patricia Moy, "Community, Communication, and Participation: The Role of Mass Media and Interpersonal Discussion in Local Political Participation." Political Communication 16, no. 3 (1999), 315-336.
xiv John Henningham, "How TV News Meets People's Needs," Journal of Sociology 18, no. 3 (1982), 417-427.; Ofcom., "Annexes to New News, Future News Research and Evidence Base," http://bit.ly/alKj93 (accessed 08/24, 2009).; Alan Rubin, "An Examination of Television Viewing Motivations," Communication Research 8, no. 2 (1981), 141-165.; Alan Rubin, "Television Uses and Gratifications: The Interactions of Viewing Patterns and Motivations," Journal of Broadcasting 27, no. 1 (1983), 37-51.; Alan Rubin, "Ritualized and Instrumental Television Viewing," Journal of Communication 34 (1984), 67-77.; Joseph Kayany and Paul Yelsma, "Displacement Effects of Online Media in the Socio-Technical Contexts of Households," Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 44, no. 2 (2000), 215-229.
xv David Tewksbury, "Differences in how we Watch the News: The Impact of Processing Goals and Expertise on Evaluations of Political Actors," Communication Research 26, no. 1 (1999), 4-29.
xvi Yariv Tsfari and Joseph Cappella, "Do People Watch what they do Not Trust?: Exploring the Association between News Media Skepticism and Exposure." Communication Research 30, no. 5 (2003), 504-529.
xvii Lucy Henke, "Perceptions and use of News Media by College Students." Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media 29, no. 4 (1985), 431-436.
xviii Betty Parker and Richard Plank, "A Uses and Gratifications Perspective on the Internet as a New Information Source." American Business Review 18 (2000), 43-49.
xix Ali Jamal and Srinivas Melkote, "Viewing and Avoidance of the Al-Jazeera Satellite Television Channel in Kuwait: A Uses and Gratifications Perspective," Asian Journal of Communication 18, no. 1 (2008), 1-15.
xx Henke, Perceptions and use of News Media by College Students, 431-436; Richard Vincent and Mike Basil, "College Students' News Gratifications, Media use and Current Events Knowledge," Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 41 (1997), 380-392.
xxi Ofcom., New News, Future News: The Challenges for Television News After the Digital Switch-Over
xxii Khalid Marghalani, Philip Palmgreen and Douglas Boyd, "The Utilization of Direct Satellite Broadcasting (DBS) in Saudi Arabia." Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 42, no. 3 (1998), 297-314.
xxiii Salim Bel-Hajj, "Patterns of Public Exposure to Allibiya FM," Al-Buhuth Al-Ealmiaa, no. 43 (2008), 67-120 [in Arabic].
xxiv Al-Asfar, Direct Satellite Broadcasting its Impact on the Audiences for Local Television Channels in Tripoli Libya
xxvi Philip Auter, Mohamed Arafa and Khalid Al-Jaber, "Identifying with Arabic Journalists: How Al-Jazeera Tapped Parasocial Interaction Gratifications in the Arab World," International Communication Gazette 67, no. 2 (2005), 189-204.
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xxix Jamal and Melkote, Viewing and Avoidance of the Al-Jazeera Satellite Television Channel in Kuwait: A Uses and Gratifications Perspective, 1-15
xxx Auter, Arafa and Al-Jaber, Identifying with Arabic Journalists: How Al-Jazeera Tapped Parasocial Interaction Gratifications in the Arab World, 189-204
xxxi Jamal and Melkote, Viewing and Avoidance of the Al-Jazeera Satellite Television Channel in Kuwait: A Uses and Gratifications Perspective, 1-15; Jabbar A. Al-Obaidi, Christopher Lamb-Williams and Victoria Mordas, "The King of all Mediums: A Field Study of College Students use of Mediums for News." International Journal of Instructional Media 31, no. 3 (2004), 239-256.
xxxii Jamal and Melkote, Viewing and Avoidance of the Al-Jazeera Satellite Television Channel in Kuwait: A Uses and Gratifications Perspective, 1-15; Jabbar A. Al-Obaidi, Christopher Lamb-Williams and Victoria Mordas, "The King of all Mediums: A Field Study of College Students use of Mediums for News." International Journal of Instructional Media 31, no. 3 (2004), 239-256.
xxxiii Edgar Huang, "The Causes of Youths' Low News Consumption and Strategies for Making Youths Happy News Consumers," Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 15, no. 1 (2009), 105-122.
xxxiv Auter, Arafa and Al-Jaber, Identifying with Arabic Journalists: How Al-Jazeera Tapped Parasocial Interaction Gratifications in the Arab World, 189-204
xxxv Auter, Arafa and Al-Jaber, Identifying with Arabic Journalists: How Al-Jazeera Tapped Parasocial Interaction Gratifications in the Arab World, 189-204; Noureddine Miladi, "Satellite TV News and the Arab Diaspora in Britain: Comparing Al-Jazeera, the BBC and CNN," Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 32, no. 6 (2006), 947-960.
xxxvi John Henningham, "How TV News Meets People's Needs," Journal of Sociology 18, no. 3 (1982), 417-427.; Al Asfar, Direct Satellite Broadcasting its Impact on the Audiences for Local Television Channels in Tripoli Libya